CDC issues alert over high RSV vaccine demand

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health alert regarding a concerning shortage of vaccines this fall for respiratory syncytial virus, otherwise known as RSV. 

It's the latest headache for parents hunting for a new shot to protect their children against respiratory illnesses when they reach their peak this fall and winter. 

The CDC is recommending doctors reserve scare doses of a new therapy, nirsevimab, commonly sold as Beyfortus, to high-risk infants. 

The CDC has also urged doctors to stop using Beyfortus for babies aged 8 through 19 months who may already be eligible for another protective therapy called palivizumab, or Synagis. These are commonly given to children with a high risk of severe disease that may be exacerbated by RSV. 

RSV is a cold-like nuisance for most people, and not as well-known as the flu. But RSV packs hospitals every winter and kills several hundred children and thousands of seniors. The CDC says already, RSV cases are rising in the Southeast.

RSV vaccines from GSK and Pfizer are approved for adults 60 and older.

The Associated Press reported last month that drugstores have adequate supplies but some seniors are reporting hurdles such as requirements to get a prescription. That’s because the CDC recommended that seniors talk with their doctors about the new vaccine. Cohen said it was meant just for education about a virus that people may not know much about.

"We want folks to ... get access to the vaccine as quickly as possible," she said.

The FDA also has approved Pfizer’s RSV vaccine to be given late in pregnancy so moms-to-be pass virus-fighting antibodies to their fetuses, offering some protection at birth. The CDC is recommending that pregnancy vaccinations be offered between September and January, when RSV tends to be most common.

There’s no vaccine for children but babies whose mothers didn’t get vaccinated in pregnancy may get an injection of lab-made antibodies to guard against RSV. Called Beyfortus, the one-dose shot from Sanofi and AstraZeneca is different than a vaccine, which teaches the body to make its own infection-fighting antibodies, but is similarly protective. Cohen said it should be available in October.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.